The landscape is looking a little different here now as virtually all of the rice fields have been harvested. No longer are we treated to the beautiful greens and yellows as we drive around, these have been replaced with poo brown earth and bare stretches of land.
I had the pleasure of participating in this process. As you can see in an earlier blog entry Meg did it the traditional way, toughing it out with a knife, I on the other hand sat on the craziest machine and pretend to play a video game! I joined Tom, Meg's brother in law, as he was working away on one of the 12 rice fields the Tomooka family own.
Way back in spring the rice is planted in the fields, I can only imagine what this is like as we arrived well after that, something we`ll do in spring next year. Slowly the rice grows, changes colour etc.
My experience began with getting on a machine, a little like a tiny tractor but it has jaws like a shark, moves like a tank and the work ethic of a Japanese worker (never stops). Basically you just line it up correctly, lower the jaws, accelerate forward and keep it in a straight line. Steering is done with the joystick and you bounce along letting the machine do the rest. It cuts the stem low to the ground, brings it up through a conveyor system, somehow removes the grains and spits the unwanted stems out the back. The rice is collected into bags and ready for the next stage. Each bag is at least 30kg and amazingly they get at least 360 bags of rice! There were heaps and heaps of frogs living amongst the fields as they are generally very wet and i think i must have killed quite a few.
The bags are then taken to the dryer which dries the rice, it is then sent through to the husker which removes the husks (like little protective covers) off the rice. The husks travel through a long tube and are piled up outside waiting to be burnt. The rice is collected in bags and then taken to the rice polisher. This is where brown rice becomes white rice. These polishers are just dotted all over the place and look like large ATMs or vending machines (we even had a friend who thought they were money changers… you know who you are). You put your money in, empty your bag out and wait while the rice is given a shimmy over, out it comes again hot and glowing white. All ready to be eaten or sold!
It was pretty cool seeing how it all works out. Considering Japanese people eat rice 3 times a day and meg and I often have it twice it`s nice to know how it all works.